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Van oude mensen, de dingen die voorbijgaan
Louis Couperus
publisher: Veen, Amsterdam, 1906

translated as:
Old People and the Things that Pass
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1963
translation: Alexander Teixeira de Mattos

refered to by:
Toni Morrison

Crime and Punishment
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky

Virtuoso, The
Margriet de Moor

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Old People is a novel from the beginning of the twentieth century, by an author who was fęted at the time, especially in Britain, as a major international writer. It has a dark secret at its core, even though on the surface we detect very little action. What we see are old people quietly and comfortably getting older. Or so it seems.

Grandmother Ottilie Derckz is the aged matriarch of the Derckz family, who spends the twilight of her years confined to her home in The Hague, being visited by her many children and grand children, and two of her old friends, Mr Takma and Dr Roelofsz. Despite the dignified composure and calm exterior of these respectable upper-middle-class Dutch people, we are gradually made aware of something more sinister. There is a skeleton in the cupboard.

The old mother used to be a beautiful, sensuous woman who lived in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) with her second husband, colonial administrator Derkcz. He died under mysterious circumstances. By and by we begin to suspect that the old woman and Mr Takma and Dr Roelofsz were all involved in some terrible event, which now, sixty years on, still hangs
over the whole family like a dark cloud. As we find out more about the past, and ‘the Thing’ that happened, we start looking at the old people with different eyes. Increasingly, it becomes clear what perturbed depths are hidden by the still surface.

Unbeknownst to the old people, a few members of the family know, or have guessed, the awful truth, and one by one the others are beginning to become suspicious and start to ask questions. The issue of who knows what becomes one of the major themes in the book. Which members of the family are fully or only dimly aware of what really happened? Who is in the picture and who isn’t? Who is keeping what from whom, and why?

Time passing is another major theme. For some characters the progress of time only means an extension to their suffering. For others the time gap, and the eventual passage of the people involved with the horror from the past, might possibly bring release and relief. As in so many of Couperus’ works, Fate is a brooding, overwhelming presence, and what we are presented with, ultimately, are people vainly struggling to keep the inevitable at bay.


bookweb from:
Lezen&Cetera, Pieter Steinz

War and Peace
Leo N. Tolstoy, (1864-1869)
This massive chronicle, to which Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) devoted five whole years shortly after his marriage, portrays Russian family life during and after the Napoleonic war.

Anna Karenina
Leo N. Tolstoy, 1877
Anna Karenina abandons her empty existence as a society wife and embarks on a doomed love affair with the passionate but emotionally bankrupt Vronsky.

Crime and Punishment
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, 1866
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, commits a random murder without remorse or regret. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck.

Germinie Lacerteux
de gebroeders de Goncourt, 1864
The hideous depravities of the modern city corrupt and destroy healthy peasants.
The authors described Germinie Lacerteux as 'the first truly working-class novel'.

Thérčse Raquin
Émile Zola, 1867
Set in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a dingy haberdasher's shop in Paris, this novel tells of how the heroine and her lover kill her husband, but are subsequently haunted by visions of the dead man and prevented from enjoying the fruits of their crime.

[Het huis Lauernesse]
A.L.G. Bosboom-Touissant, 1840
A novel by A.L.G. Bosboom-Toussaint, who, in his youth, was a great fan of Couperus' work (see also Major Frank).

Major Frank
A.L.G. Bosboom-Touissant, 1874
A novel by A.L.G. Bosboom-Toussaint, who, in his youth, was a great fan of Couperus' work.

A Dog of Flanders
Ouida, 1872
The story of Nello, a poor Antwerp boy, and his faithful dog Patrache.


Old People and the Things that Pass
'The Hague novels'
Three very old people are bound together by a secret, which they believe is known only to them. But unfortunately, this isn't the case.

The Postman Always Rings Twice
James M. Cain, 1934
The torrid story of Frank Chambers, the amoral drifter, Cora, the sullen and brooding wife, and Nick Papadakis, the amiable but inconvenient husband, has become a classic of its kind, and established Cain as a major novelist with a spare and vital prose style and a bleak vision of America.

Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
'in English'
The story of Humbert Humbert and his obsession with 12-year-old Dolores Haze. Determined to possess his 'Lolita' both carnally and artistically, Humbert embarks on a disastrous courtship that can only end in tragedy.

Two Women
Harry Mulisch, 1975
Lesbian relationship ends in murder (by doubly-deceived man) of one of the women.

The House of the Seven Gables
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851
The curse of Mathew Maule descends on seven generations of the inhabitants of an old New England house.

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
In this novel Jay Gatsby' s destructive passion for Daisy Buchanan is played out against the background of Long Island high society. Viewed through the eyes of an outsider, Gatsby' s life is the story of a generation – glitz and glamour turning sour, and the high life turning to ashes.

Sándor Márai, 1942
At a castle in the Carpathian moutains, two men meet for the first time in 41 years, having spent their lives waiting for this moment. Decades earlier an event - something to do with a betrayal and a woman - led to the friends separation but as their lives draw to a close the truth is revealed.

World's End
T.C. Boyle, 1987
Haunted by the burden of his family' s traitorous past, woozy with pot, cheap wine and sex, disturbed by a frightening real encounter with some family ghosts, Walter Van Brunt is about to have a collision with history. It will lead Walter to search for his father.

The Deeps of Deliverance
Frederik van Eeden, 1900
A woman who gives up a life of affluence to be with an artist is increasingly plagued by psychoses.

A Posthumous Confession
Marcellus Emants, 1894
A man of 'tainted stock' murders his wife and tells his life story.

[Een liefde]
Lodewijk van Deyssel, 1887
Psychology of a melancholy woman with a difficult love life.

Eline Vere
The demise of an extremely sensitive and overly refined young woman in the upper-class milieu of nineteenth-century The Hague.
The Book of the Small Souls
A penetrating analysis of the commercial and psychic unraveling of a prominent Amsterdam family.
The Hidden Force
The decline and fall of the Dutchman Van Oudyck is caused by his inability to see further than his own Western rationalism: he is blind and deaf to the slumbering powers of the East Indian people and countryside.
[De berg van licht]

[Iskander: de roman van Alexander den Groote]

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The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht,
Thanks to: De digitale pioniers and
Het Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
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Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
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